Resolution without Evil?

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Some good controversy around this idea of propaganda. The idea I was getting at was that all writing to some degree is propaganda in the broadest sense, meant to persuade and intended to evoke mental and emotional shifts through convincing communication. Orwellian undertones aside, I’m not willing to say either that all education is or is not propaganda (i.e. persuasion), or that fiction does not also aim to educate. The definitives and definitions are a bit indefinite by definition. However, I do believe all Christian writers worth their salt were assigned the task to use words to define, shape, and call into existence the metaphors that reveal God, namely truth, beauty, and goodness. There is a famous quote (bonus points to whoever knows the source) that goes, “Those who make a distinction between education and entertainment don’t know the first thing about either.” That may be somewhat didactic, but it bears a whole lotta truth. For that matter, as a writer, I may be a bit didactic with my fiction—intentionally or not—but I hope I also bear evidence of a greater truth. Without it, my work and life are meaningless.

Now don’t misunderstand. Those who aim to teach through story are a misguided bunch, denigrating the art to which they profess, the primary responsibility of this vocation of persuasion. But those who hold the opposite purist mindset that stories don’t necessarily, unavoidably teach as well are equally blind. The most vapid, sensationalistic, commercial crap teaches. Case in point coming soon to a theater near you…

It’s my humble (controversial) opinion that Christian writers should be the most controversial out there. I’m not going to state this as well as I’d like, but let’s suppose those who buy Christian books have a problem with sin, either in their own lives or those around them. If they didn’t see the problem or didn’t accept sin as a problem to be dealt with—if they couldn’t see how truly revolting sin is—what do you think would happen to Christian books that talk about the reality sin? Would those people be right to restrict those kind of books? If all Christian book buyers were not horrified by the soul’s true darkness, wouldn’t those books that deal with the reality and restitution of sin be all the more necessary?

Without the controversial truth of sin, there’s no possibility of resolution. I’m borrowing some of this from the ever-controversial Ted Dekker. Without contrast, is there any reason to paint at all? And why, if words were supposed to be safe, sanitized, platitudinous, would God himself use such foul language to describe sin in the Bible? (see Proverbs 26:11, Jeremiah 13:26 for a couple examples) Far beyond language, God actually did some of the foul things we’re not supposed to think or write about as Christians. I imagine some of the well-meaning folks pointing their fingers: “Hey, come on, God! Don’t you know that’s not Christian?” Can there be any greater folly?

If life wasn’t painful, there’d be no need for resolution. If we weren’t facing the existence of sin, there would be no need to cause offense by including it in our books. But we’re evil—too evil not to be offended. Sin is a grave thing indeed and striking it out is joining in the conspiracy to undermine restitution.

Should we not be angered by our own hypocrisy? If we weren’t, we might not be compelled to write truthfully. We must face our evil desires, face our repulsion and fight to be truthful for the sake of our calling. I believe in God’s purposes through evil, despite the opposition from our own. And I’m sorry for how this sounds, but I know now that we have to be controversial to reach the ones who need the metaphors most.

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7 thoughts on “Resolution without Evil?”

  1. Yeah, I talk about DVC on my blog this week, and authors that refute it.
    So, Mick, could you please elaborate a little more, here, where you say, “Those who aim to teach through story are a misguided bunch, denigrating the art to which they profess, the primary responsibility of this vocation of persuasion.”
    How do you differentiate between aiming to teach through stories, and theme, and the persuasive parables of Jesus, and Samuel, was it, with King David? Maybe I missed it.
    Seems to me if it isn’t too heavy-handed, teaching through stories could be very effective.
    Thanks. : )

  2. …For example, if I may: There were two men in one ancient agrarian town, one rich many flocks and herds, and the other poor with one little ewe lamb that grew up with the poor man and his children. They loved and cuddled that lamb and treated it like part of the family…. And a traveler came to the rich man and asked for a meal. The rich man refused to feed the stranger from his own flock and herd. Instead, he stole and cooked for the traveler the poor man’s family’s little pet lamb.
    When another man heard this, he was furious. He said that man should die, and should give the family four lambs for doing this and for having no pity.
    And the teller said that he, the hearer, was that cruel man.
    The hearer was King David.
    He had just taken another man’s wife, Bathsheba, and made her pregnant. He then sent her loyal husband to the battle front to die.
    The teller, God’s prophet Nathan, (not Samuel, my mistake) said that David, who was so blessed as king, had given the enemies of God great occasion to blaspheme, and for that, he and Bathsheba would lose the baby. David fasted and prayed for seven days, but the baby still died.
    They did conceive another baby later–Solomon.
    Pretty high drama, huh? And moreso because Nathan touched David’s heart, as he planned to–with a story that teaches.
    There’s a place for that, isn’t there?

  3. Every book teaches a lesson, even if the lesson is only that one has chosen the wrong book.

  4. There is a place for the morality tale, but rarely does it approach the level of literature or art. If I want stories trying to teach me a lesson, I’ll pick up a copy of Aesop’s Fables. If I want literature, I’ll steer clear of those who are famous for trying to shoehorn lessons into a novel.

  5. u wrote:
    If all Christian book buyers were not horrified by the soul’s true darkness
    this is it, isn’t it? we’re just so afraid to be found out, to be broken, to be human. the christian veneer would be cracked and shattered if people only knew we were flawed. gasp.
    but we are. we are. to say any different is to put a standard out there the author, the publisher, the christian can’t meet. it is hypocrisy, but worse, i think we lie to ourselves and do it for the sake of the masses.
    i’d rather be unpublished and true to my voice, than published and be lying. i know there are lots of people who say, make sacrifices, meet halfway, don’t be a difficult author. yes, all of that is true, but where does it stop? when does the author, the art lose it’s umph (a very philosphical word) and just become McArt? shmaltzy (another philosophical word)?
    the world won’t give a crap about our art if we keep sacrificing it for the bucks. that is the bottom line. we’ve got nothing to say because we’ve neutered the Gospel and everything in it please the weakest brother (who is probably a wolf).
    suz
    (and thanks for your kind words mick).

  6. I’m a little concerned about the statement: “Now don’t misunderstand. Those who aim to teach through story are a misguided bunch, denigrating the art to which they profess, the primary responsibility of this vocation of persuasion.”
    Apparently Jesus didn’t know that He was misguided when He used parables to teach those around Him.

  7. Can I use this for my class this weekend, o’brilliant one? So far I got nothing and this is handy material on what makes something “edgy”…

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